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The timing of this year’s Fourth of July festivities could not be better, nor the holiday more needed. These are not the best of times for our country. The economy is looking around for an Intensive Care Unit; the war continues to pile up years, years, with no end in sight; unemployment is screaming, “Do something, somebody!”; even Mother Nature seems to be kicking us while we are down. It is as if our metal is being tested, as if 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina were not enough.

The list could be longer but the point is made. It is not my nature to be negative but that does not mean I cannot be concerned about global warming and the dying in the Middle East, the prices at the gas pumps and food markets and the lack of any light at the end of the tunnel. Well, almost any light.

We are America, after all, and the Fourth of July is our collective way of reminding ourselves of that and what we as a people can achieve. We know that Independence Day is not just about parades and fireworks but about the spirit our forefathers and founders passed on to us. Not only is it a day to celebrate our freedoms, it also is a time to reset our focus.

“When in the course of human events” our lives, our liberties and our pursuits of happiness are challenged, as they are these days, we are yet young enough as a nation to meet those challenges head on. I have lived most of my life thinking that it was Benjamin Franklin who said, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” when in fact it was Plato. That ancient wisdom should be the theme of this year’s Fourth.

Necessity was at the heart of the Declaration of Independence. It drove the Industrial Revolution, got us through the Great Depression and exploded us into the Atomic Age. Today, necessity is with us on many fronts. I, for one, believe we as a nation will not only meet the challenges before us, but will be better because of them.

This kind of thinking does not end the war tomorrow or create overnight a quantum drop in the cost of living, or magically dry clean the flooded worlds of the Midwest and the Mississippi, but it can tell us more than ever who we are and what we can achieve.

Just like this Fourth of July needs to do.